No matter how old your child is, adjusting to a new sibling can be difficult and slow. Many children feel threatened by the appearance of a new baby. When they see their new sibling, they may be cold, unreceptive and maybe even jealous of the new addition to the family. As a parent, you can probably relate to this scenario. However, their reaction is perfectly normal. You only need to diffuse the situation and get them to see their sibling as a bundle of joy, rather than a rival.
When I had my daughter three weeks ago, I experienced something similar. My older son didn’t throw outright jealousy tantrums but he was cold and unreceptive towards her. For the most part, he ignored her completely. However, I got him a baby doll and tried to create an intimate bonding moment with it. The purpose of the doll was for him to take care of it in just the same way I took care of my newborn. Thus, there was a bonding process as we both took care of our ‘babies’.
After a week or two, I noticed he became more receptive towards his new sister. Even though she can’t play with him like he’d want, he tries to involve her in his everyday activities. For example, at bedtime, he kisses her goodnight just like everyone else. He asks for a high-five from everyone and even though she can’t give him one, he doesn’t seem upset about it. Although I expected something much worse, I’m really glad that their relationship is improving and I can’t wait to see how it pans out when they’re older.
One thing I learned from my experience is that it is completely normal for your older child to act out and feel threatened. It’s a short phase that they quickly outgrow. However, if you get actively involved, you can help them to love their new sibling the way they should.
Basically, the relationship between older children and their new sibling is usually strained at first. If you’re lucky, your older child would warm up to the baby at first sight. However, if you’re not one of the lucky ones (which is usually the case), your child may need a helping hand to adjust to the arrival of a new sibling.
For a lot of parents out there, it can be really worrying to see your older child jealous or cold towards their new sibling. While it can be alarming, it’s usually just a phase that they get over after a few weeks. However, there are ways you can help your older child warm up to his/her new sibling.
What Should You Expect?
If you’re expecting baby number two or three, it’s usually normal for your older child to act out because they feel replaced. Here are some signs or behaviours your older child may exhibit:
- Total or partial withdrawal: Older children often show signs of withdrawal at the arrival of a new baby. This may be because they feel threatened, unwanted or unloved. For example, they may begin to talk less or play less around the house. At this point, you need to coax your child out of the shell he/she may have withdrawn into. You can do this by showering more love on them and organising fun family activities that they’d enjoy.
- Tantrums: This is more common among children between the ages of four to eight. An older child who feels threatened by the arrival of a new sibling may act out by throwing jealousy tantrums. For example, your older child may scream, throw things around or simply refuse to do things when asked. While this may seem worrying or disturbing, you need to understand that your child is feeling a lot of negative and scary emotions. As such, you need to draw them closer and make them feel safe.
- Bullying: In some cases, your older child may try to ‘bully’ his/her new sibling. They may try to pinch or even smack the baby. Let them know that bullying isn’t acceptable and try to talk them into accepting their new sibling.
You may be overwhelmed by having to deal with your new baby and an unhappy older child all at the same time. However, you should keep in mind that It’s only a temporary phase that will be over before you can say: “I need a break!”.
Memphis meeting his little sister (Malyché) during the first week <3
What to Do
Now that you know the attitudes or actions to expect from your older child, it’s important to know how to deal with those attitudes. It won’t be easy but if you’re patient enough, you’d be able to coax them into loving their new sibling in no time at all! Here are some things you could practice:
- Give him/her enough attention: Most older children act out because they fear that the arrival of a baby means less attention for them. As such, you need to calm their fears and prove to them that there’s enough love to go around. Give them enough attention just like you used to and let them know that there’s enough space in your heart to love all your children equally. With time, they’d start seeing the baby as less of a rival and more of a cute sibling who can’t talk.
- Involve them: Experts say that when children are left out or side-lined, they tend to act out or drift apart. So, it is usually advisable to involve your older kids when taking care of your baby. For example, you could let them hold the baby or read a story to the baby. With time, they’d accept that their new sibling has come to stay and warm up to him/her.
For kids, it can be really difficult to adjust to huge changes such as the arrival of a new sibling. However, you can help them adjust and accept their new sibling as part of the family. Good luck!